Exclusive: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2’s Micah Sloat Interview
When news came out that there would be a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2, there was a lot of doubt that it, as a studio film, could pull off the same kind of scares as its predecessor that was shot on such a shoestring budget that the set was actually director Oren Peli’s house. Even Paranormal Activity star Micah Sloat was suspicious, but, luckily for all involved, the sequel was terrifying enough for fans that there’s now a third installment in the works.
Daemon’s Movies recently talked to Micah Sloat, who reprised his Paranormal Activity role in the sequel, about whether watching Paranormal Activity 2 is more frightening in a theater or at home, what was different about shooting the sequel, and how appearing on ‘The Bonnie Hunt Show’ got him fired from his job as a computer programmer.
Paranormal Activity 2′ is now out on DVD so that we can scare ourselves to death whenever want, right?
Micah Sloat: That’s the idea.
Is it scarier on the big screen or watching it at home, do you think?
Micah Sloat: I think it’s a different experience. I think when you’re watching it on the big screen with a packed house it’s a thrill ride. It’s really fun. It’s like riding a roller coaster with a bunch of people. When you’re watching at home it’s a lot creepier in the sense that you don’t have other people to cling to. It’s just you or whoever you’re watching it with. For me, I notice that I look at what’s going on a lot closer.
Plus, you start hearing every single creak in your house –
Micah Sloat: Exactly, yeah.
Can you set up the plot for ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it?
Micah Sloat: Well, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ is the story of how the demon came to haunt Katie Featherston in the first movie. It’s the story of Katie’s sister, Kristi and her family. And Katie’s sister has a baby who’s name is Hunter. For some reason the demon has a relationship with this baby and that’s pretty creepy. So you get to follow the story.
It’s pretty interesting in that ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ is actually a sequel and a prequel. You can watch ‘Paranormal Activity 2’, press stop, watch the entire first movie and then watch the end of ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ and it’ll be one seamless experience. That’s pretty unique.
Paranormal Activity 2′ is similar in technique to the first film, but you don’t have that same element of surprise that you did in the first one. Why do you think it’s still so scary?
Micah Sloat: Well, I think it’s scary for three reasons and I’ve seen ‘Paranormal Activity I’ a countless number of times and it still scares me every time. I think the reasons are, number one, the timing of the scares. There’s something unpredictable about it and it just gets you every time.
The second this is that everybody has to sleep and everybody hears those noises in their house and regardless whether you’ve seen it before, how many times have we all just gone to sleep and seen a shadow on the wall and it’s a little scary? So it sticks with all of us.
I think the third reason is that it’s just a slow build and you get really sucked into the story. So when really minor things start to happen like lights flicking on or something banging you’re right there with the characters and you’re experiencing what they’re experiencing. I think that’s why it’s scary.
They also did add a baby and a dog, and for me adding a dog is dirty pool, by the way –
Micah Sloat: Yeah. The dog was great to work with. I don’t know how they taught it to do all those crazy things that it can do, but that dog is a miracle.
There’s an extra seven minutes on the extended version of the film. What does that add?
Micah Sloat: Yes. It adds a bunch of scenes, new night scenes and new day scenes. To be honest it was a while…I watched the extended version last week and I hadn’t watched the original version since the premiere. So I couldn’t really pick out what the details were, but I could tell that it was a new night scene and stuff like that. There are some cool new night scenes.
When did you find out that you were going to be in the second one? That must’ve been a surprise.
Micah Sloat: Yeah, a little bit. Well, we were approached by Paramount last year. I forget exactly when it was, but I was a little hesitant to sign onto the project because I didn’t know what it was going to be like and if it was any good and I was kind of afraid that it was going to be a ‘Blair Witch 2’ type of debacle. But then I got the script and I thought, ‘Wow, this script is amazing.’ It had the same creative team and Todd Williams, the director, and then I thought that was the greatest thing ever. We ended up pulling it off.
Was there more of a script this time around compared to the first time?
Micah Sloat: Yes, there was. The first one had a big board in Oren’s [Peli] office. It had all these post-it notes on it. Each post-it had one scene and what was going on in the scene, but the thing was that it was all written in Hebrew. So Katie and I were looking at the board, but we’d never know what was happening next even though it was all written in front of us.
In the second film there was a treatment kind of thing. So it wasn’t a script with dialogue that you’d have in a normal film, but every scene was mapped out and we knew where we had to start, where we were going and where we had to end and all of the salient points that we needed to hit in each scene.
Was there a different feeling on the set of ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ than the first time around, like maybe higher expectations with more characters? It sounds like there was more structure, more money –
Micah Sloat: Yeah. The budget for the first film was about $11k and the budget for the second one I believe was $3 million. So that money had to go somewhere. So the scares are a lot bigger and there’s a lot more FX and it creates stronger dynamic I think between the quiet day scenes and the night scenes. I mean, things get crazy.
When you have a studio film you have to pay the crew and you have to follow union laws and everything. Actually, when we were filming ‘Paranormal Activity I’ I remember very clearly that we’d been filming for like eighteen hours and Oren’s girlfriend saying, ‘You have to give them a break. They have to eat.’ Oren was like, ‘Nope. We’re on a schedule. We have to go.’ So that was our experience with the first one and then the second one, I remember the first day of shooting that I was on set and we were working and just getting into the groove and had been going for probably three hours or something and then it was like, ‘All right, we’re ready to go,’ and someone said, ‘Lunch,’ and everyone just disappears. It was so surreal for me.
‘Paranormal Activity’ now qualifies as a phenomenon. What’s this journey since 2006 been like for you?
Micah Sloat: It’s been like falling down a rabbit hole. I haven’t reached the bottom yet. But it’s been extremely surreal, from hearing Steven Spielberg saying that he’s going to rewrite the ending of our film to the whole Demand It campaign and the way that the first one took off. Then the sequel and now the success of the sequel and it’s coming out on DVD and then ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ coming out in October of this year. I never imagined that things would be like this. This is quite amazing.
You’d been working as a computer programmer when you filmed the first one, right?
Micah Sloat: Yeah. Actually, when we were filming ‘Paranormal Activity’ I was in music school and I took a week off from music school to shoot the film. If I didn’t get back on Monday they were going to expel me, so we had a pretty hard deadline. We had to get it done. I took off a year, both from my job as a computer programmer and as an actor to go to music school and then when I got out ‘Paranormal Activity’ was screening at Scream Fest for the first time.
Then from 2007 to 2009 was this kind of odyssey where the movie got kicked around between Paramount and DreamWorks during that split that they had and people didn’t know what to do with it. During that time I was a computer programmer.
When were you able to quit?
Micah Sloat: I actually got fired because I went on ‘The Bonnie Hunt Show’ and Bonnie said, ‘Are you still working,’ and I said, ‘Well, actually, Bonnie, yeah. I’m actually being paid right now. I’m supposed to be at work.’ I guess someone in HR at the company saw the show and realized that instead of working I was on ‘The Bonnie Hunt Show’ and I got fired.
It is it pointless to ask about ‘Paranormal Activity 3’?
Micah Sloat: Yes.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can talk about?
Micah Sloat: I do have a lot of stuff in the oven, so to speak, but nothing specific that I want to mention at this time.
I’m not sure I could even have the DVD’s in my house because they’re so scary.
Micah Sloat: Actually, Steven Spielberg said the same thing with the first film. He actually took it back to DreamWorks in a garbage bag when he saw it for the first time because he didn’t want to touch it and he didn’t want it to be in his house anymore. This is the guy who made ‘Poltergeist’.
One more final thought about ‘Paranormal Activity 3’, just as a fan I’m very excited about it because there are so many loose ends and threads hanging off of the first two movies. I want to know what happened to Hunter.